Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Biomonitoring has become an important component in bioassessment programs. It is used to maintain high water quality standards, and determine contaminant levels and biological affects in areas that have been heavily disturbed. The objectives of this research were 1) to improve and apply certain modern biomonitoring techniques and 2) to locate possible contaminant sources affecting the flora and fauna of the Green River and of Mammoth Cave. Actinonaias ligamentina (Lamarck, 1819), a freshwater mussel, was used for interpretation of these impacts as well as refinement of biomonitoring techniques. The mussels were collected in the Lawler Bend region of the Green River, an area upstream from the Mammoth Cave System, and from Haynes Shell Midden (dating 4000 - 6000 years before present) 45 miles downstream. Analyzing the shell nacre of these mussels, and the soft tissue of recently collected specimens, produced an abundance of information including high tissue concentrations of organochloride pesticides, significant concentrations of several metals including Cadmium, Copper, Mercury, Nickel, Silver and Zinc (with Mercury and Silver being found at the impact site), and numerous shell nacre stains. These results indicated possible impact from agriculture in the region and past and present contamination from local industries, and demonstrated the importance of the nacreous shell to biomonitoring programs.


Environmental Health and Protection | Medical Sciences